Island Christmas

Posted by Jane N on

Merry Christmas Everyone!
I had a rather unconventional Christmas day I thought I would share with everyone. We actually celebrated the holiday on Saturday, Jeremy was able to come down from Vermont for lunch and we exchanged gifts and visited. Thanks to technology we were able to Skype with Jeanine and we opened each others gifts. Both my kids gave me birding gear, Jeanine sent me a very comfortable to wear birding backpack and a folding walking stick. Jeremy got me a military grade Lock Down Optics Deployment System. Kinda a mouth full, but it is really cool. Sort of like having a covered case you wear on your chest, the binos attach to the straps instead of hanging around your neck. I just had to get out there and try this gear out!
So Christmas morning I decided to head to Plum Island to do some birding. The Audubon Society holds a Christmas Bird Count each year and they ask birders to count all the birds they see and report the totals. So while most of you were sitting around your tree and opening presents I was bundling up and packing my gear for a day of Winter birding. It was sunny on the island, temperature around 35 but the wind was fierce. Blowing across the island with 30 mile gusts, made it hard to stand on the observation platform. And I was sand blasted by the beach sand, it felt like needles poking me!
I wasn’t on the island more than a few minutes when I spotted something rather unusual. There lurking in the tall salt marsh grasses was an American Bittern! What?!? What was this bird doing here now? Sure they live on Plum Island in the Summer but not in December, sure hope he plans to head South real soon. There wasn’t much snow and there was still some open saltwater in the marsh but that will be changing soon, then all will be frozen including the Bittern if he doesn’t fly to warmer climates.
There was a pair of Northern Harriers flying low over the tall grasses of the salt marsh. I watched as they hovered over the field and then dove down into the tall grass, I’m assuming for lunch. There was a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk just sitting on a bare branch along the side of the road. He sat there cocking his head side to side even when I got out of the car and took his picture. Maybe he was just to cold to bother moving. I left him alone and moved on.
There weren’t a lot of different birds on the island but there were a lot of the birds that I did see. There were dozens of Mallards and Black Ducks bobbing for food in open saltwater canals. On a hilltop where the snow had been blown away I counted 92 Canadian Geese sitting in the dried grass! On the bare rocks along the ocean shore there were huge flocks of Gulls. Great Black Backed Gulls, Ring Billed Gulls and Herring Gulls all gathered sunning on the rocks even as wind swept waves crashed over them. There were Common Eiders riding the crest of the waves like surfers.
So I guess you could say I had an Island Christmas. Maybe not the kind of island most of you would envision spending Christmas day on, but I enjoyed my day trying out my new birding gear. I sent along a couple of pictures of me in my new gear. Thank you Jeremy the Optics Deployment System it work great and was very comfortable. It was easy to use and nice to not have the strap pulling on my neck, and even in the steady wind the binos didn’t bounce around. Thank you Jeanine for the sturdy walking stick, as you can see by the picture it was very icy and the spike on the end of the walking stick made all the difference. And the back pack was just the right size for my birding book, camera, water bottle and snacks.
Happy Birding, Jane

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